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Melissa Locker

Encompassing over 4, 000 square miles, Jasper National Park, which is part of the Canadian Rockies, is the world’s second largest dark sky preserve, a term bestowed on areas that make a commitment to protect and preserve the night sky and to reduce or eliminate light pollution. (The first largest is also in Canada: Wood Buffalo National Park stretches across the Northwest Territories and Alberta, an expanse larger than Switzerland.)

The annual Jasper Dark Sky Festival, which will be held this year from October 16 through October 25, is a celebration of nighttime for everyone from recreational stargazers to professional astronomers. This year’s festivities will include a keynote address by someone intimately acquainted with the stars: astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield. The guitar-toting former resident of the International Space Station will share stories about his career and his travels on—and off—the planet. The festival also features a packed itinerary of incredible activities such as overnight excursions, meteor shower sightings, and night photography lessons. The organizers will also bust some myths about the dark with help from former Mythbusters hosts Grant Imahara, Kari Byron, and Tory Belleci.

The park has plenty of hotel packages available for travelers headed to the festival and offers many ideas to help fill the days before the action really kicks off at night.

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